Welcome to our series on ultra-low-budget game development!
The purpose of this series is to serve as a guide for people who attempt to live the Studio Archcraft experience - namely developping a commercial-quality game with little experience and almost no financial resources. I’ll try to indicate the errors to avoid, the best practices to use, and so on.
For today’s post, I’ll focus on the preliminary issues to be handled.
1-So, you want to be a game developper?
The first question you have to ask yourself is how badly you want to be an entrepreneur in the field of game development. If you just want to work in the game industry, there are easier paths. Entrepreneurship, in any field, means long weekends spent working, fights with your significant other because you’re almost never available, and lower income than if you spent the time working the counter at McDonald’s for minimum wage.
It’s a rewarding experience, and yeah, if you create the next Final Fantasy you can retire early. More to the point, you get to create your games, not those of your boss. But you have to be willing to pay the price.
Now that the downer stuff is out of the way, let’s move on.
2-So, how big is your shoestring, really?
The first thing you should do once you’ve decided to commit to the game entrepreneurship path is figure out exactly what you can invest in the project.
First - what are the skills you bring to the table? Are you a programmer, or an artist? Maybe you’ve got some management skills? More to the point - are you good enough in your field to be able to do the tasks? What do you have to learn? You need to do a pretty brutal self-assessment. The point is not to discourage yourself, but to get a realistic idea of what you can contribute to the project. On that note, if the only thing you can put on the table is “I have great game ideas” - well, that’s not enough. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but “having the game idea” is such a small part of the game development process that it’s not a meaningful contribution.
Beyond skills, what else do you have that a game studio needs? Obviously, if you’re reading this, you have a computer. Is it good enough to do game development on it? Do you have the software you need to do your part of the work?
Third - we’re on a shoestring budget. But exactly how much money can you afford to sink in the venture? Do you have any savings you can afford to put in? Maybe you can afford to divert part of your regular income to the project?
3-And how big is your shoe?
Now that you know what you have, you need to figure out what you need. Obviously, you’re going to need, at least:
- A detailed game design document;
- Tools to create your game data;
- Game engines;
- Art assets;
- Musical assets and SFX;
- Some legal and management support;
- Eventually, publishing and marketing services.
Then, you need to figure out how to handle the tasks you can’t do. You probably do have some money, but nowhere near enough to be able to afford to outsource everything you can’t do yourself. So - you need to figure out how to get the missing pieces.
At this stage, you probably only need to decide how you’ll get your programming and art needs filled. You’ll probably want to handle design yourself (or with any partners you might have), music and SFX can (and should) wait until design is complete, worrying about publishing and marketing is really premature, and legal and management options are not a major decision item at that point.
Well - that’s running a bit long. Next week, I’ll tackle various options on how to fill missing art and programming needs. If I have room, I’ll also talk about the various resources available for a start-up.